We’ve covered AMD's new hybrid CPU-GPU ‘Accelerated Processing Unit’ closely over the last few weeks, along with its significant role in diving the success of future 'FX' enthusiast processors. Today the ‘second generation APU’ was unleashed (well ahead of when most expected it) to the world at large. Trinity has garnered some mixed reactions, mostly centred around its GPU being barely faster than Intel’s competing (if quite spritely) Ivy Bridge GPU.
The wide world that is the interwebs suggests that the planned mixture of ‘good enough’ processing power and a strong graphics side still equates to a promising package, one which will keep Intel on its toes if the price is kept low (and all the more so for laptops below the 'top end' models tested. This is good news for consumers. But it is still notable that once again AMD will need compete on price: it now has no feature which Intel cannot match. We had expected graphics to be that feature, for AMD to maintain its lead on Intel there. However as you can see below the ‘HD 4000’ GPU in Intel's Ivy-Bridge very nearly matches Trinity’s ‘HD 7660G’ GPU. While we have been concentrating on the CPU side of things more in past articles, an apology is still due here. More attention was due on the graphics front: my predictions for one would have benefitted from a deeper analysis of the improvements Intel made on Ivy-Bridge’s GPU. As it is, once the rubber hits the road and the smoke clears, Trinity's A10-4600M comes in with a roughly 10% graphics advantage over the competition Intel 3720QM, a lot less than was generally expected:
* (Avg performance over multiple sites/games, comparable tests. GPU Tests @ 768p include: Portal 2, Skyrim, Di3rt, Civ V, Just Cause 2, Deus EX: Human Revolution, Batman: Arkham City, Shogan 2: Total War and Dawn of War 2)
** (Avg performance over multiple sites/games, comparable tests. GPU Tests include: Cinebench R11.5 render , LAME, PCMark 7, Sandra Arithmetic, 7-zip (compress & extract), Sandra Drystone, Sandra Whetstone, Cinebench 11.5 CPU, Cinebench Single Thread)
Things do appear a bit better on the CPU front, the promised 25 percent performance gain from the new Piledriver architecture, with its new 'Resonant Clock Mesh' we examined, having been realised quite handily. This still leaves Intel with the commanding lead shown above, but Trinity moves considerably faster than its Llano predecessor. The gap between Intel and AMD has shrunk significantly for the first time since 2006 this year and there is no reason to expect this catching up won’t come to desktops in August.
For the general purpose, multi-threaded applications that are now in a majority, the CPU part of Trinity will indeed be fast enough for modern laptops, while single threaded applications will see a more noticeable difference from the lack of horsepower. This isn’t a game-ender presently, given Trinity was designed to be and is fast enough for today’s applications, but it will affect things a few years down the track when applications are more demanding; an Ivy Bridge laptop will stay ‘fast enough’ for a lot longer. It's of note that of the few applications which can truly challenge modern CPUs right now are games. As such we suspect that the disparity in CPU power, accounts for much of why Trinity’s graphics power is below that promised by AMD. In a lot of cases, the HD 7660G GPU in Trinity appears starved by its Piledriver CPU bunkmate.